Series: 30 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress without Leaving Home (11-15)
Heads up, mama!
On October 6, I began the first part of this series “30 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress without Leaving Home.” Every other week, I’ll release the next post in this series. Each one will outline 5 tips to help you reduce stress. Hopefully, you’ll come away from this series learning not only ways to cope with feelings of stress, but you’ll actually feel better because you’ve taken the time to practice some of them.
Missed the previous post in this series? Click here.
11) Drink more water
If you want to reduce stress, one of the simplest things you can do is start by making sure you are drinking enough water.
Here’s what I found in a Health.com article:
“When you’re under stress, your adrenal glands pump out stress hormones. And if you’re constantly under pressure, eventually your adrenals become exhausted, causing an adrenal insufficiency, Dr. [Robert] Kominiarek [DO, a board-certified family physician in Ohio] says. Problem is, the adrenals also produce the hormone aldosterone, which helps regulate your body’s levels of fluid and electrolytes. So as adrenal fatigue progresses, your body’s production of aldosterone drops, triggering dehydration and low electrolyte levels, he says. While increasing fluid intake can help in the short term, mediating your stressors is the only real long-term solution.”⠀Source: Health.com
Isn’t that crazy! Before reading this, I had no idea about the link between stress and dehydration.⠀
While it’s clear that drinking water isn’t a substitution for making the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce stress, drinking enough water is a start. The easiest way is make sure you’re staying plenty hydrated is to substitute another drink (soda, tea, or juice).⠀
I’m already a water-only drinker. I rarely drink anything else. Oh, uh, except my morning cup of decaf coffee. But even I have to pay attention and make sure that I drink enough water during the day.
I was talking with a friend the other day and we both agreed that we can absolutely tell when we haven’t been drinking enough water. Up your water intake over the next few days and see if you notice a difference in how you feel, too.
12) Smile more often
I’m guilty of not smiling enough. If you run into me in public, I will most likely be rocking a resting bitch face. No lie, ya’ll.
Sometimes, it’s intentional. I mean, it’s one of those things we introverts learn how to do to avoid conversations. Am I right?
But you know what I learned recently about smiling?⠀
That when you smile, you trick your brain into releasing feel-good hormones.
This article from Very Well Mind explains more about how this works, but it also cautions against forcing a smile to mask anxiety and/or depression.
So even if you don’t feel like you have something to smile about, fake a smile from time to time. Or, if you’re like me, try and catch yourself when your face is telling a sad story and turn that frown upside down.
The way I see it is this: smiling tells my body that everything is fine right now, that I have nothing to stress about at this exact moment. I like using this trick when I genuinely don’t have immediate stress to deal with (like while on my yoga mat) or when I just want to nudge my mood in a positive direction.
Remember: the point isn’t to pretend all is okay with the world. The idea with this exercise is to help you become more mindful of the expression your face is making and learn how to outwardly express the happiness you’re already feeling inside.
13) Go to bed earlier
Eye roll, I know. We mamas’ are walking zombies at times because of how little sleep we tend to get, especially during the infant phase of motherhood.⠀
But over the long term, if you continue to deprive your body of adequate sleep, do you know what happens?⠀
Allow me to explain: One of the things that sleep does is help to maintain your nervous system and control your stress hormones. And if you don’t get enough sleep, well, your body will have a terrible time regulating those hormones.⠀
No bueno, mama.⠀
So, try to get your butt in bed earlier, okay? Really try. Promise me.⠀
I know it’s easy to feel like the end of the day is your ONLY chance to do things you can’t do when the kids are awake (and I know you’ve got a mile-long list). But prioritizing your sleep is extremely important. In fact, I bet the experts would agree that sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to stress management.
In my house, my girls are in bed by 8 pm and I’m usually laying down for the night by 10 pm. I’ve found that I function best after at least 7-8 hrs of rest. (But my three-year-old still wakes up at night, sometimes a few times, so I’m not quite getting the uninterrupted sleep I crave.)
So I know the drill, mama. I know that if you’ve got really little ones, you might not be able to get those solid chunks of blissful sleep. But trust me, going to bed early – especially when I was still breastfeeding and waking up many, many times – always made the world of difference in how stressed I felt the following day.⠀
For more tips on creating a bedtime routine that helps you get more restful sleep, you might find this blog post helpful:
14) Cut out your morning phone habit
In the previous segment of this series, I told you how I use my iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature. I have that thing set to automatically put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” starting at 7 pm. And it doesn’t shut off until 7:45 am.⠀
That means I don’t see a bunch of notifications on my phone’s lock screen when I wake up.
Which makes it less tempting to get lost in the world of my phone before I’ve even gotten a chance to brush my teeth.
Because waking up and then immediately loading your mind with missed messages and other app notifications is bad news for your brain.
It stresses you out.⠀
And doctors have said that checking your phone first thing in the morning screws around with how productive the rest of your day will be.⠀
So, while I like to avoid being bombarded with messages for the first few hours of my day (that’s just my preference), you don’t have to go to that extreme.⠀
Just aim to stay away from your phone for the first 15 minutes of your morning.⠀
You can try and do this without using “Do Not Disturb”, but, if you have an iPhone, I highly recommend that you just set it so that it doesn’t start pinging you until after you’ve been awake long enough for it.⠀
Especially if the ping sounds tend to put you on alert to want to check your phone. (That’s your body’s fight or flight response in action, btw.)⠀
15) Step away from your phone
I don’t remember where I first heard about this, but apparently, if our phones are nearby, it’s difficult for us to truly concentrate, let alone relax.⠀
Well according to this article from Harvard Business Review, based on a study of nearly 800 participants, having your smartphone nearby can “adversely affect your ability to think and problem-solve — even when we aren’t using them.”
Having your phone nearby is essentially stressful because it puts us on alert. According to cognitive psychology research, “humans learn to automatically pay attention to things that are habitually relevant to them, even when they are focused on a different task.”
It’s no different than how we are constantly alert to the needs of our kids. We can sit there and engage in a conversation with another adult while they are around, yet still turn toward them when they call our name to get our attention.
And we know how exhausting it can be to be in the presence of our kids 24/7. Then, add your smartphone to the mix, and it’s like a double whammy.
No wonder we can never think straight!
Bottom line: the mere presence of your phone is a stressor. I can’t think of anything more stressful than trying to think clearly while something distracting is happening around me. (Examples: driving in the rain while the kids are making noise, trying to form a coherent sentence when speaking on the phone while my toddler is throwing a tantrum at my feet – you know, just the usual stay-at-home-mom life shenanigans).
So now that we know this little nuisance exists, what can we do about it?
A great way to mitigate the stress of having your smartphone nearby would be to simply remove it from the room you’re in when you’re not using it.
For me, I’m usually spending my time in the kitchen or living room areas of my home so leaving my phone in my bedroom while I’m completing tasks that don’t require my phone would be a great way for me to think more clearly and feel less stressed.
While I haven’t tried this yet, I will definitely start doing this now that I’m aware that having my phone around could be messing with my ability to think straight.
This exercise could also be a great way to see how often you feel “naked” because your phone isn’t nearby. I personally don’t have my phone on me all the time and have definitely left my phone accidentally in another room and not realized it until hours later. But I’m sure you might notice this if you’re glued to your phone more than I am.
To recap this third post in the series 30 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Without Leaving Home, here are ways 11 through 15 to reduce stress without leaving home:
- Increased stress can trigger dehydration, so make sure you are staying hydrated.
- Smiling sends a signal to the brain that you’re safe, so use this trick to help get your body into a restful state.
- Sleep is crucial to a healthy functioning nervous system, so aim to get a good nights rest.
- Using your phone first thing in the morning can bombard your body with stress triggers, so break your morning phone habit.
- Your smartphone is affecting your ability to think clearly, which is stressful, so try to put it away when you aren’t using it.
Remember, I’ve shared several resources in today’s post incase you’d like to dive deeper. None of the links are affiliate links. Just links to other websites for you to learn more.
I believe that the more we learn about how our mind and body function, the more we can understand ourselves. And it’s a pretty empowering feeling to fully understand yourself and how your body works.
I encourage you to not only try and implement these stress reducing techniques in your days, but to also commit to learning more about how your body works. If we pay attention, our body’s can give us so many clues that can help us determine if we are on the verge of a breakdown. Listen closely to what it’s telling you, mama. I know it can make a difference in your days because paying attention has made a difference in mine.